Baejungtang—also known in some regions as baesuk—is a poached or steamed Korean pear dish that makes a comforting breakfast, snack, or dessert. As in many traditional Korean recipes, each ingredient was chosen for its flavor and purported curative properties. (The Korean pear, which is also often labeled as Asian pear, is considered to be cooling and hydrating, while bellflower root is often used as a homeopathic immune-booster in Korea.) You can find the ginseng-like bellflower root online or at Korean markets.
- 16 strips dried bellflower root (½ oz.)
- 4 Asian pears (about 1 lb. each)
- ¼ cup (¾ oz.) peeled and thinly sliced fresh ginger
- 4 dried jujube dates, pitted and thinly sliced
- ¼ cup honey
- 12 whole black peppercorns (optional)
- 1 Tbsp. toasted pine nuts (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a small bowl, add the bellflower root and ½ cup hot water; set aside until softened, about 15 minutes. Use 1 root to tie another 3 roots into a small bundle and set aside. Repeat with the remaining roots and reserve the soaking liquid.
Cut off the top 1½ inches of each pear, reserving the tops. Using a melon baller or a small spoon, hollow out the inside of each pear into small balls and reserve, discarding any seeds and leaving 1⁄4-inch walls on the bottom and sides. If any balls are oddly shaped, slice into thin pieces and reserve. Divide the reserved pear balls and pieces, ginger, dates, honey, and peppercorns (if using) between the 4 pear “bowls.” Transfer 1 bellflower root bundle and 2 tablespoons of the reserved soaking liquid to each pear, then cover the pears with the reserved tops.
Form a large sheet of aluminum foil into a 3-inch ring; repeat with 3 more sheets of foil. Transfer rings to a large, deep baking dish . Place the pears on top of the rings, then add enough boiling water to reach ½ inch up the sides of the baking dish. Cover the pan tightly with more foil. Bake until the pears are very tender when poked with a paring knife but still holding their shape, 40–50 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, carefully transfer each pear to a soup bowl. Remove the bellflower root bundles and discard. Remove the tops of the pears and discard. Garnish the pears with toasted pine nuts (if using). Serve hot or warm, with spoons.